I have another wonderful author interview for you today, this time with
Zara Quentin, author of AIRWOMAN!
I'm sure you're thinking "hey Jamie, you just posted on instagram a picture of that book, right?" and you would be CORRECT. You can scroll to the bottom of this post for a direct embedded version of that picture so you can see the book in real time for youself. I'll be reviewing AIRWOMAN ~eventually~ (I believe my tentative date is early January 2017) but I am really excited for this one, so I asked Zara to do an interview so I could show off this book to you guys early and then you can hear my thoughts later! It was JUST published, so you can click below to purchase your copy so you can read it as well. Without further ado, INTERVIEW!
AIRWOMANAuthor: Zara Quentin
Series: Airwoman #1
Publication Date: October 25, 2016
Jade Gariq is the daughter of a respected Taraqan leader, and the heiress to Gariq Industries—a large, cross-Portal trading company. Her future appears to be set.
Except for one thing: It’s a life that she doesn’t want.
Jade has always dreamed of joining the Traveller Force—the elite Taraqans who traverse the Betwixt, filled with terrifying beasts, and who protect and patrol the Dragonverse. Despite having been Travellers themselves once, Jade’s parents remain vehemently against risking their only daughter’s life. When Jade’s father dies suddenly, she inherits Gariq Industries, its assets, trade deals and social responsibilities.
It seems as though her fate has once again been decided.
Meanwhile, Axel—her close friend and secret crush—disappears without a trace. Then Jade discovers the circumstances surrounding her father's death are not what they seem— her uncle Zorman suspects foul play. To find the truth and avenge her father's death, Jade travels to an uncharted world, where she will learn more about her family, herself, loyalty, and betrayal than she ever imagined.
What is your writing routine?Zara Quentin: I have two hours dedicated to writing once my kids are in bed. Usually I write from about 8-10pm. Aside from that, I write whenever I can. When my kids were still taking naps, I would write during their nap time. Otherwise, if I have a spare 15 mins or so, I will use it to check in on my social media, do some brainstorming or sketch out a scene.
Often, if I’m in drafting mode, I’ll be thinking about the next scene during the day so that when I sit down to write, I already have an idea of the way I want it to play out Then it’s just a matter of transcribing the movie in my head onto the page.
As far as routine’s go, though, I try to be as flexible as possible. I have to be able to write when I get the chance, so I try not to get too worried that I’m not in the right place or don’t have the right mood music or anything like that. As long as I have my laptop or a pen and paper, I’m good to go.
Do you find yourself reading the same genre as you write or do you diversify your reading?Zara Quentin: I read lots of YA fantasy, for sure, but I also diversify. It’s hard—there are so many great books to read in the YA fantasy genre that I feel like I’m always playing catch up. However, I also like historical novels, sci-fi, adult fantasy, thriller and good contemporary books. I tend to read for pleasure so whatever grabs me at the time is what I’ll read next, no matter what genre it is.
Describe AIRWOMAN in 10 words or less.Zara Quentin: A murder, a cross-portal journey, a mystery, and a betrayal.
What was the inspiration behind the story?Zara Quentin: The initial idea came to me in the middle of a dark and stormy night. The wind had blown open the windows of my bedroom with a crash and as the curtains streamed into the room, I had a vision of her—Jade Gariq (though back then she didn’t have a name). She was perched on my windowsill—wings folded at her back and dripping wet—seeking shelter from the storm. She had come from somewhere else and was fleeing something—though I didn’t know what. It was that moment that sparked the idea that became Airwoman.
More generally, my world-building is heavily influenced by the places I’ve been—I have always loved travelling to foreign countries and experiencing new people and places. Over the years, there are many places I’ve been that have found their way into the fabric of my stories.
Also, I’ve always wanted to fly—not “becoming-a-pilot” flying but “actually-having-wings” flying! So, it was fun for me to write from the point-of-view of a character with wings.
Zara Quentin: When I was writing the first draft, my favourite scene to write was probably the scene of Jade’s father’s funeral. All my world-building and character-building came together in that scene. When I was writing it, I felt myself really sink into the detail, as though I was really there, just transcribing what I was seeing and feeling. This was one of the few scenes that I barely touched in revision.
During revision, I probably most enjoyed (re-)writing the climax—letting myself feel the emotion as the characters face off, as well as bringing all the pieces of the story together.
What do you hope readers take away from the book?Zara Quentin: Primarily, I want readers to enjoy their experience of reading AIRWOMAN. I want them to be whisked away to Taraqa—to escape real-life and experience being a Traveller. I hope they will strap-in for an exciting ride with Jade Gariq through the Dragonverse.
Further to that, I want them to consider the view of “others”. In the Taraqan world view, the Travellers are the most important people in the Dragonverse, with other races being less civilized, less intelligent, less important. Simply less. I would like to challenge that notion that some people are more important than others, simply because of their origins and ancestry.
How do the portals work and how did you create them?Zara Quentin: In Taraqan mythology, each world in the Dragonverse was dreamed into existence by a Dragon-God who is curled in the centre of it, sleeping. The Dragon-Gods spin their dreams—their creations—around them like a cocoon. Between each of these worlds is the Betwixt—a space where the Dragon-Gods are absent and where terrifying beasts lurk.
The portals are natural rips or tears in the outer fabric of a world’s “cocoon”. These naturally occurring portals lead from one world in the Dragonverse, through the Betwixt, to another—if the Traveler survives the journey.
When I lived in New Zealand, I went to Rotorua and Taupo several times. There is a lot of geological instability in that part of the world (volcanos, earthquake zones, hot springs and geysers) and It made me think that natural portals between worlds would unbalance the area and would cause geological imbalance in the surrounding area. When I was building the Dragonverse and its portals, it seemed natural to include these geological markers as hints that a cross-world portal would be nearby.
Jade’s throat tightened and she pushed forward, feeling a stab of panic that she’d lost her visual on the person she’d been counting on to lead her through the Portal. Without him, she had no idea where to go. Adrenalin pulsed as she beat her wings harder, thrusting herself forward.
Her panic overcame the revulsion as she approached the Portal clouds. The Betwixt protected itself by emitting a strong sense of unease, an inexplicable desire to turn back or avoid the area. Generally, it stopped anyone from accidentally crossing into the Betwixt.
She’d learnt she’d need to steel herself against the repulsion of the Betwixt to pass through it. Leuven had said it was a test of character. Jade supposed she was about to find out whether she had what it took to be a Traveller.
With another beat of her wings, Jade was surrounded by fog. She gulped down air and looked below. She could only just see Neve, straining to keep up. Neve looked desperately afraid. Jade waved to her, trying to be encouraging, but even as she lifted her hand, Neve was obscured by the fog. All she could do was hope Neve would follow. Jade flicked her tail to turn towards where Cajun had disappeared.
Then the air thickened and changed.
Panic surged through her as her senses shut down. She couldn’t see, she couldn’t hear—nothing but the thudding of her own pulse in her ears. The wind stilled and she lost the scent of the salty air.
The atmosphere closed around her, smothering her. It clung to her, as though she was suddenly swimming—suspended in a strange, grainy gel, like nothing she’d ever felt before. Jade was stuck, scrambling frantically but not moving forward. The blinding darkness did nothing to assuage her panic. She felt completely alone and utterly helpless. Paralysed.
Jade screamed out for help, but no sound came from her mouth. She was reminded of nightmares she’d sometimes had: of running but going nowhere, of screaming but not making a sound, of knowing her eyes were open but seeing nothing.
Rising panic made her paddle her arms and kick her legs, faster and faster. Her wings beat back and forth, though it was a labour to move them in the thick atmosphere. She blinked her eyes and opened her mouth, trying over and over again to call out for help.
Then someone caught her hand and a face appeared directly in front. Jade blinked and saw Michael staring back at her. His hands touched her face, patting her cheeks. He motioned with one hand, mimicking taking a breath in, then out. The rhythm of his wings followed the same steady pattern. He was trying to calm her. She forced herself to copy him, breathing in and purposefully exhaling. She made an effort to calm down, to stop kicking and scrabbling frantically. She took another breath, steadying.
Though forced, it did calm her and allowed her to think more clearly. Jade’s hand brushed the dragonfly and she remembered her promise to Zorman. She dropped one of the docks, hoping it was close enough to the Portal for the signal to work. As she moved on, the dock remained suspended where she’d let go of it, as though floating.
Michael pointed ahead. As her eyes adjusted, Jade realised the darkness wasn’t completely black. She saw shapes moving ahead, but her vision was severely limited.
He tugged her hand, urging her forward. Jade copied his wing motion to push through the atmosphere, but it was such a huge effort just to move a fraction.
Then she realised she’d forgotten Neve.
She pulled against Michael’s firm grip, turned and peered into the darkness. A white shape moved and relief washed over her. Neve’s white robes were easier to see than the Travellers black uniforms.
Letting go of Michael’s hand was like leaving a lifeline but Jade waded towards the white shape. As she approached, she saw Neve more clearly. Her eyes were wide with fear and her mouth rounded in a silent scream. She moved with the same frantic and uncoordinated manner that Jade suspected she’d adopted at first. It had little effect in the thick atmosphere of the Betwixt. With one hand, Jade reached out to grab Neve. With the other, she dropped a dock into the Betwixt.
She looked at Neve, trying to reassure her, but her own heart pounded and her nerves were on edge. Then Michael was next to her, taking her hand again. Jade gave him a nod, exaggerating the action so Michael understood. She clung to Neve’s hand, unwilling to let go of her friend as they made slow progress toward the rest of the Squadron.
Ahead of her, Michael drew apart, but Jade could see them now. She remembered to drop another two docks as she moved.
The Betwixt quashed Jade’s sense of time and space. She had no idea which direction she was moving or how far she’d come. She was suspended in impenetrable darkness in every direction. It was impossible to know how far apart she’d spaced the docks, but Zorman had given her plenty so she figured she’d just keep dropping them until she ran out.
As they moved towards the Squadron, Jade pulled Neve behind, unwilling to lose her again. Fear clawed at her throat and she used precious energy battling it. The going was tough enough, but hauling Neve was worse. Neve couldn’t seem to master the smooth movement and she weighed on Jade like an anchor.
By the time they caught up with the Squadron, Jade was exhausted. She wasn’t sure how much farther the Premyan Portal was. She didn’t know how long she’d be able to keep this up.
She grabbed the fabric of a shirt in front of her. Cajun turned around and, seeing Jade, grabbed her hand and pulled her towards him. Then he turned away and held up his hand in a fist.
Jade wanted time to rest, but the Squadron started moving immediately. Cajun let go of her arm and moved away. Jade looked over at Neve, who seemed no less afraid. She wondered if her own face reflected Neve’s terror. She hoped not, for her friend’s sake. She gestured to Neve that they needed to follow the others.
Jade’s muscles screamed out for relief. Her arm holding Neve felt like it had been wrenched out of its socket, but they could not fall behind. If the other Travellers got more than about a body’s length away, they would disappear. Then Jade and Neve would be lost again.
She dropped a dock, and wondered how far they’d come.
She dropped a dock, and wondered how much farther they needed to go.
She dropped a dock, and wondered if they’d ever make it.
She dropped a dock, and wondered how they’d ever find their way back.
Jade made herself focus on the faint image of Cajun’s wings in front of her. She was afraid to even blink, in case she lost him. She couldn’t think about anything else. She dropped another dock and hoped they would be there soon; she only had one dock left.
Every time she let her mind wander, fear gripped her, squeezing the breath out of her, threatening to paralyse her again.
She visualised Michael’s movements, breathing in and out, slowly and with purpose.
Out of nowhere, Jade heard a moaning sound which grated on her. With a start, she realised she had heard no other sound since she’d entered the Betwixt. It grew louder, though Jade wasn’t really sure if it was a sound at all. It seemed to make the thick atmosphere around her vibrate, louder and louder all the time.
Jade’s throat all but closed over. She blinked, taking her eyes off Cajun’s mottled wings just for a moment, to see what was happening around her. When she looked back, Cajun had disappeared into the dark. She forgot about her breathing and fear pulsated through her with every rapid heartbeat. Her wings beat faster, frantically, and she started scrambling with her hands and feet trying to propel herself faster through the murky suspension. Her head turned side to side, up and down. She could feel someone, something watching her, but she was blind to it.
The horrifying, vibrating sound trebled and Jade put her hands over her ears to block it out; she felt a panicked urge to keep moving, to flee.
She looked at Neve, a beacon of white beside her, whose eyes mirrored her own terror. Neve was scrambling as well, clutching at Jade’s arm like a lifeline. She could feel Neve’s fear radiating from her, adding to the disturbance in the grainy atmosphere.
The vibrating sounds raked over her, sending spasms down her back. She opened her mouth to scream for help, but no sound came out. Jade had the sense the terrible thing behind them was gaining on them, stalking its prey, playing with its food before the feast.
Nobody was going to help them now.
Jade was struck by the terrible truth of it.
They would never make it out of this place. She and Neve would die here.
Jade thought of Mama and the twins. She thought of Papa, unable to rest. She thought of Axel’s betrayal. Now, she wouldn’t be able to make any of it right. She had failed.
Jade’s head drooped. The screeching, vibrating sound increased, and Jade grated her teeth.
She couldn’t think. She couldn’t think with this assault on her senses.
Then, suddenly, there it was.
Jade’s head jerked upwards, her eyes darted around. She felt it again, crisp and fresh.
She caught the scent of it and felt it at the same time. It seemed to part the thick muck of the Betwixt, diluting it. Jade realised what it must mean.
They were close. So close.
Jade quickly dropped her last dock as she reached out to grab Neve’s hand. She had a direction now. Hope.
Neve’s hand was like solid rock. She didn’t move as Jade tugged at her.
Jade drew her eyes away from the direction of hope to look at her friend. Then every fibre of her body shook with the effort of trying to scream.
Zara Quentin is the author of Airwoman, the first book in the Airwoman series. She was raised in Adelaide, Australia, with one younger sister. Zara grew up with a strong sense of adventure, which she inherited from her parents, who took her and her sister on trips to the United States, Europe, and Asia.
Zara now resides in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and three children. She is currently working on the next instalment in the Airwoman series.
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